Today we will talk about stonewalling. We will look into the stonewalling definition, and after we define stonewalling we will talk about stonewalling abuse, the occurrence of stonewalling in relationships, the most common stonewalling examples, the signs of stonewalling in marriage, effects of stonewalling, and how to deal with stonewalling emotional abuse, and everything related to this topic.

Let’s first find out what is stonewalling.

stonewalling definition

What Is Stonewalling?

Stonewalling occurs when a person starts ignoring the outside world, they refuse to talk, communicate, and interact with their romantic partner.

It happens not only in a relationship or the daily life between partners but also during counseling, court proceedings, cases, etc.

There are a lot of reasons why people use this strategy, either to render it obsolete or avoid answering the question. Whether to address it later on, but, in most cases, ignore a conversation and continue avoiding it in the future.

Is Stonewalling an Abuse?

All week we work at the computer, and then we go to a night club to throw out the accumulated emotions. It is not a vacation, but a change in the type of activity. Energy consumption again. When resources are finally exhausted, we, finding no other way out ... roll up into a shell.

Over time, this form of self-defense may please us so much that we resort to it more and more often, go into the world of fantasies, where we feel safe. And now we constantly live where we are understood and accepted as we are - in ourselves. If you've found yourself in an abusive relationship, you should better end it and find a woman for relationships by using online dating. No reason to be in one-sided relationships.

Best way to unwind from the pain and worries

Stonewalling and narcissism not always have something in common. It is important for every person to be understood. Retreating into ourselves, we find such a partner and friend - we ourselves become them. This person does not need to explain anything; they like all our thoughts, tastes, and views. They will not criticize us. Self-care is nothing more than filling up a lack of attention, understanding, and love. And the danger is that this deficit quietly develops into a strong psychological defense.

Physically, you are present, living, doing everything that is required of you, at home, and at work, but you are withdrawing and closing internally. Communication with the outside world becomes minimal, you become the only person who neither causes irritation and nor forces you to hide and defend.

When the temporary becomes permanent

We all need to recharge and rest from time to time. But when the pace of life accelerates, we are forced to rest already while working and communicating with our family. So we go into automatic mode, and there is a feeling that we are both here and not here. Unnoticed, our whole life turns into a beautiful dream, in which there is no sense in expressing feelings, achieving something, fighting for something.

Our detachment is especially noticeable to relatives, it is becoming increasingly difficult for them to communicate with us, it seems that we have become indifferent, detached, closed, we don’t hear anyone and are not interested in anything. At the same time, we feel incredible inner comfort: we feel good, calm, we have nothing to strive for, and nothing needs to be proved. This is how addiction and dependence on communication with oneself occurs.

When Does Stonewalling Appear in Relationships?

The more vivid talents or qualities you are endowed with, the harsher the criticism will be. As soon as the aggressor feels what the most significant and dear to you is, they will begin to criticize just that. Therefore, they subconsciously understand that developing as a person, you become independent.

A person wants to control life and destroy someone’s happiness

Another marker of a hidden sadist is the destruction of joy. Their need is to disappoint others. If you are looking forward to meeting them, happy on a date, they will definitely wear a mask of impregnability. If you want intimacy, your beloved one will remain cold because only they, in their opinion, have the right to take the initiative.

You have been planning a trip somewhere or something pleasant for a long time, and you dream of how you should feel good. But at the last moment, your significant other will adjust everything so that your plans will fly somersaults. If this is a woman, she will certainly have a headache or will not have what to wear. A man in front of the plane may “forget” his passport or they will not have a car before going to the theater. In addition, you will surely be guilty of this, because it was you who, with your unworthy behavior, brought your partner to such a state.

Of course, such troubles happened in the life of each couple, but if you have such “bumps” regularly, you are dealing with a sadist. Why do they need this, you ask, because at the same time they also suffer because there is no intimacy, going to the theater or visiting and going on vacation.

effects of stonewalling

That's why such people strive to always control your feelings. Indeed, in their opinion, only they can be a source of joy and pleasure. Only they decide when you will receive these positive emotions. Often you still have to “earn” them.

It should be noted that such "masters of life" tend to control negative emotions. Therefore, if someone offends you or makes you suffer, your partner will give a fitting rebuff to the ill-wisher, while not sparing their strength and resources.

This, of course, will pamper your vanity, confirm that there is a stone wall and a reliable shoulder nearby. But at the same time, such "noble" actions make it difficult to identify people who are aggressors. They mimic under noble heroes. After all, what happened? The fact that you were protected is only a byproduct of your partner’s struggle for territory. Since only they have the right to grieve you.

Revenge to the whole world

Finally, people of this type are almost always vindictive, they will not forgive anyone, they will remember the offense for a long time and plan how to revenge more painfully. The hidden aggressor builds all their relationships on the basis of projection. That is, they see other people as they consider themselves to be.

Feeling insignificant, such a person completely displaces this from their consciousness. After all, aggressiveness, coupled with self-contempt, gives little chance of survival. Therefore, it seems to such unhappy people that they are surrounded by those who are despicable, hostile, and ready at any moment to humiliate, commit violence, take everything away.

The only thing that can protect is a power based on absolute power, to which they so eagerly strive. Revenge, according to the latent sadist, is the only means of restoring "justice" in this world full of enemies.

So, although the described character deserves sympathy and may require long therapy, and you recognize them in your loved one, it is better to break off relations with them. In psychology, there is a rule "do not try to make friends with a rabid dog." It applies to cases where you are not able to help someone, and the damage from communicating with them is irreparable. Indeed, even if you try to be polite and try to please such a partner, they will still find what to blame you for.

Stonewalling Examples and Signs

Stonewalling is often compared by experts with a certain elimination in their own cave. All this can be expressed in different ways: some suddenly become silent and indifferent to everything that happens, others start fishing, and someone else quickly begins to pay attention to the garage. All these actions are united by one thing: the change occurs suddenly, without any visible and objective reasons. Naturally, you begin to get nervous because the first thought that creeps into the head is, "They've stopped loving me."

They were just waiting to find a reason to stonewall you

Stress, serious problems, or turmoil can cause a partner to withdraw into themselves: career, financial, personal crises, etc. Such behavior is typical of men who do not like to whine and complain, prefer to experience everything in themselves. In the timeout, they see an opportunity to find a way out of difficult life situations, an opportunity to think everything over, make some kind of decision. This may offend a person, but it is worth treating such behavior with understanding. Sometimes it is a partner who becomes an occasion to leave for the cave. For example, when she forces a relationship. It happens that such self-cares do not last long and may not be visible to others. Therefore, when a partner is stuck in a cave for a long time, this may seem unexpected. In fact, such withdrawal into oneself is a character trait, a feature of the male psyche, you just need to know about it.

The expression "a man enters his cave" was introduced into fashion by the American psychologist John Gray. It turned out figurative and bright and was enjoyed by many. A cave is that corner inside which a man does not let anyone in, a place hidden and secluded. Perhaps this is a reference to the distant past when the caves were intended primarily for women and children, and men hid in them rather in exceptional cases.

They are concentrated on something important

Here’s another thing about stonewalling psychology. By such an act, a person tries to abstract from external problems and fuss to focus on solving a specific issue. One person needs a couple of hours to figure out themselves and return back to their family, while a few months might be not enough for someone else. When a person finds a solution to their problem, they leave the cave. But often, in addition to the decision itself, a person makes conclusions about whether they want to be next to their partner or not, and this directly depends on the behavior of the partner themselves.

After leaving the cave, a person becomes more loving and gentler. This happens because, during their “hermitism,” a person manages to emotionally relax and miss their partner, they return with renewed strength, ready to continue the relationship, especially if the partner was sympathetic to them and allowed them to stay in the cave.

If a person wants to maintain a relationship with a partner, then such a withdrawal should be understood and forgiven, not trying to get them out of the cave or enter there themselves. You must understand that this is a feature of the psyche, and attempts to remake something can only aggravate the situation. It’s not worth reminding your partner about what happened, reproaching it, but sometimes there is a need to clearly state your position. Especially if such treatments last a long time. It is worth warning them that you will consider the repetition of the situation as a betrayal. Speaking of symptoms, one should note thoughtfulness, silence, detachment, and sometimes it is accompanied by a desire to leave, to be alone, etc. It should be noted that most of the female experiences regarding the fact that a person has stopped loving are usually not related to them, but have an inner reason: self-doubt in your relationship. Very often, such doubts come from ignorance of male psychology, at the level of “if they are silent, then they do not want to talk to me.” But there can be many reasons for silence. Do not take everything personally, then many doubts will disappear by themselves.

How to Deal with Stonewalling in Romantic Relationships

Now, let’s find out how to deal with stonewalling.

Understand that you are probably not a problem

How to stop stonewalling? First, give your partner the benefit of doubt – the problem might have nothing to do with you. They may feel overwhelmed by a crisis that is difficult to discuss. Do not try to attract them, especially if this is uncharacteristic behavior. Your compassionate assurance of accessibility, when they feel ready to discuss what is happening, may simply open the door for wider communication. It can even strengthen your relationship. If there is a problem, the first step of your partner is to seek help. You cannot force them to allow you to help them.

Keep your side of the street clean

Maybe you are part of the problem. Check your behavior. Sometimes obstruction can be a defense against criticism or a response to alleged aggression and hostility. Are you inspired when your partner interacts with you? Or are you judging, condescending, and attacking if your partner admits their mistakes? Lack of compassion on your part can stimulate obstruction. Consider your side of the situation, and this will help clarify your role.

Take care of yourself

You may have made every effort to solve the problem by trying to talk about it. You may have refrained from a negative attitude and continued to support. If your partner is still stonewalling you, stop. Things can become aggravated, and you need to take care of yourself. You are likely to be annoyed by your partner's behavior and absorbed in difficult emotions.

To cope with this, Gottman offers a practice of physiological complacency. This includes taking time to calm your anxious feelings and give your partner the space to adjust their behavior. Gottman also suggests, however, not to take the position of righteous indignation. (“I shouldn't take this!”) or play a sacrifice (“Why do they always do this to me?”). You make the situation worse. Look for distractions and engage in hobbies, soothing music, watching a good movie, taking a walk, etc.

Do not cling to stressful thinking when your partner tries to change their behavior

All relationships are occasionally attended by the Four Apocalyptic Horsemen (criticism, defense, contempt, and denunciation). Strong relationships are built when partners find ways to communicate constructively with each rider. 

stonewalling occurs when

How to talk to your partner if they are not used to discussing relationships? And what to do if you want to discuss some situation, and the partner leaves the dialogue? These issues primarily concern women in heterosexual relationships. Since masculinity and femininity are social constructs, there are many related prescriptions. Following them, men should not show emotions, be “soft” and “feminine,” and therefore, they often try to get away from dialogue or consider “showdown” an unpleasant and meaningless affair. In turn, femininity is partly constructed around the idea that a woman should pay more attention to relationships, worry more about their preservation, and make efforts to preserve them.

Although these ideas do have a serious impact on men and women, fortunately, the reality is a bit more complicated, since each of us has something to oppose to the influence of cultural and gender stereotypes, first of all, personal experience of attachment in a parental family. Practice shows that a withdrawing partner in heterosexual relationships is not always a man. And same-sex couples are also not immune to the fact that one of the partners or partners will often avoid discussing relationships.

Accept their right not to discuss something

The first important idea that will help advance in such a situation: the partner has their own reasons not to discuss the relationship or situations associated with them.

Ideally, such a conversation could begin with just such words, but not so simple. To say, "I know that you have your own reasons not to talk about it," and to believe it are two different things. One of the main reasons leading to avoiding talking on such topics is fear. Very often at psychological consultations, one of the partners says that when last time they spoke or opened, the other was very angry in response. This, in turn, leads to the fact that the partner begins to make excuses, “Well, what are you saying, it’s really important for me to know your opinion, but I can’t always agree with them.” This is a dead-end.

Remember how your parents in childhood and adolescence wanted you to trust and tell them as much as possible, and how they reacted when you told them the truth.

Most likely, they cursed and punished you when they heard things that scared them. So very quickly, children and adolescents understand what is worth telling, and which aspects of life are better to hide from relatives. Naturally, an adult partner is hardly afraid that you will punish them. But they may try to avoid upsetting, offending, or angering you.

If you go deeper, then fear can be joined by shame

This is one of the most destructive emotions - it makes a person want to disappear, freeze, hide so that they will not be seen. Shame differs from guilt in that since a person feels that they are bad, and not that they have done something bad. Shame is very difficult to bear emotionally and bodily, so people often either withdraw in themselves to avoid this experience or attack first, defending themselves.

All this may seem complicated. And it’s really difficult, but the ability to talk about what is bothering you in a relationship and formulate what you need is very important. If one partner withdraws, and the other rejects attempt to emotionally reunite with them, the couple chooses a dangerous and, oddly enough, unstable compromise, which later almost always results in additional difficulties.

There will always be something that can annoy you in the partner, and the partner in you, but until it becomes a threatening incentive, both can always open up and take risks.

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